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BWR: Equipment Choices

Now that we’ve read about the Belgian Waffle Ride and what physiological challenges to expect, let’s talk about the equipment challenges of such an event. Unless you’re coming from a mountain bike background, the discussion of equipment challenges is a bit of a foreign topic. One of the biggest equipment considerations for a road racer is which pair of carbon wheels to run, the 60s or the 40s. If you come into the BWR Survival Camp, or worse yet BWR, with the same mentality, it’s going to be a very long, frustrating day.
 
Let’s take a look at a few key equipment choices that you need to nail:Neil Shirley Pic
 
Bike
The first thing to remember is that you need the most efficient setup for the ENTIRE course, not just the dirt, and definitely not just the pavement. With that said, unless the largest tire you can fit on your road bike is a 23mm, you should ride your road bike. We’ll get into tire size later on, but for now, just go with a road bike. A ‘cross bike, especially one with ‘cross tires is more bike than is necessary.
 
Pedals/Shoes
Other than a closed gate or two that require a few steps to go around, there shouldn’t be any hike-a-bike sections or extended time walking in your cleats. That means go with your road setup. Of course now that I mention it, that whole El Nino thing could be cause for concern, so on second thought, bring some MTB pedals and shoes in case Mother Nature has it out for us.
 
Gearing
If you think your 25t cassette will be more than enough gearing, think again. First off, you have to consider the overall amount of time you’ll be in the saddle, and how that factors into legs of rubber by about the midway point. Then consider that the steepest climb, Double Peak, comes in the final 10 miles. Finally, consider how embarrassing it is to walk your bike up a hill in front of your peers. A 52/36 chainring combo with an 11-28 cassette could be used efficiently for the very fastest riders out there, so that means a 50/34 with an 11-32 cassette isn’t such a bad way to go for most.
 
TiresSector-28-on-HED
If you were to pay attention to only one thing in this article, it should be this: the most important aspect of successfully getting through BWR is your tire choice. All four times I’ve done BWR, and both times I’ve won it, 28mm width tires very much like the Hutchinson Sector 28 are my go-to. Some of the best 28mm tires can go head-to-head in terms of weight and rolling resistance as a good 25mm tire, while providing superior pinch flat prevention and better handling in the dirt. If you have rims that can be used tubeless, then that’s definitely an added bonus. Be sure to drop the pressure slightly compared to what you typically run. For the BWR, I typically run about 80psi since the vast majority of the miles are on pavement.
 
For equipment questions or comments contact me at neil@roadbikeaction.com